Philip Dearest is the sweetest thing at HOTA

With HOTA, Home of the Arts constantly on the lookout for ways to showcase local artists, it seemed like a shame to let a perfectly good candy bar wall go to waste! Hence HOTA’s Candy Bar Commission, in operation since 2018.

Now 2020’s sweetest exhibiting artist is illustrator Philip Dearest, whose portraiture explores themes such as identity, disability and mental health (or “the awkward”, as he calls it.)

While his work may be missing out on a couple of months of in-person exposure due to HOTA’s current closure, it doesn’t mean we can’t give him plenty of love in the digital space, where he has a significant presence already (see link at bottom of article).

Like many artists, making art on a regular basis greatly helps Philip work through and manage his mental health. His work for the Candy Bar Commission features two still-life studies he made on his iPad while in a psychiatric hospital for agoraphobia exposure therapy.

“Each day I had to force myself outside for 30 plus seconds a day and find a leaf or flower, touch/smell/experience it and then bring it back inside and do a still life study,” Philip explains.

“Cognitively, it’s the only way I can properly process relationships / trauma / daily social situations around me that usually baffle me.”

As well as illustrating, Philip works across various mediums including digital art, painting, drawing and making zines. He’s participated in the MCA Zine Fair, Indie Comic Con, Supanova, Oz Comiccon, and numerous art fairs where he sells his zines and illustrations on t-shirts, posters, badges and stickers. His zines are held in the National Library of Australia collection, and are a particular passion project.

“[Art’s] gotta be accessible to everyone, especially the poor or disabled.  I’ll always post my art free online but I also adore the DIY low cost culture of zines,” he explains.

“It’s exhilarating to hold your work in a printed format (after growing up online) and be able to give them out to anyone/everyone.  I’ve self-published hundreds of zines and hope to never stop.  It took me a couple years to “click” that I should be selling the zines so that I could cover the cost of printing them at Officeworks… I’m not v good at money.”

One thing he is incredibly good at though, is his online presence, where he has built up a supportive community around his art and mental health, which to Philip are inextricably intertwined.

“It’s incrrrrredibly kind, forgiving and adorable on Instagram, people are grand,” he says.

“I “cut-my-teeth” on free online art scenes and social media.  It’s a rad way for anxious folk to show their work and not have to endure the torture of face-to-face interaction or the gross closed off uppity fine art gallery culture that some artists weirdly drool over.  Accessible art ‘til death, amirite?”

Indeed! And until you can access Philip’s Candy Bar Commission and HOTA foyer pieces in person, you can hit up all his spaces on linktr.ee/philipdearest.

This interview contains reference to mental health issues experienced by Philip. If you’re experiencing any issues with your mental health or well being then please considering seeking health or advice by calling Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or Lifeline 12 11 14.

Interview by Sally Wright, HOTA gallery team

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